Scotland politics

MSPs hear from two sides of same-sex marriage debate

The two sides of the same-sex marriage debate have given evidence to MSPs.

The Equal Opportunities Committee is examining the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.

Pro gay marriage advocates, Tim Hopkins, of the Equality Network, and Colin MacFarlane, of Stonewall Scotland gave evidence.

Kieran Turner, of the Evangelical Alliance Scotland, and John Deighan of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland spoke against legal changes.

The Scottish government introduced the same-sex marriage bill at the end of June.

It is now undergoing scrutiny before committee members and in the Scottish Parliament chamber.

Mr Hopkins and Mr MacFarlane told MSPs on Thursday it was right that churches wanting to conduct same-sex marriages in Scotland should opt in to the system.

Mr MacFarlane said: "The opt-in is right and the balance is right within this bill.

"I don't think it is for any of us here on this panel to tell a religious organisation what they should do. That is for the religious organisation, through discussion, through prayer, to come to that conclusion themselves."

'Bill is about love'

Mr Hopkins told MSPs that marriage was the "last big area in which the law still discriminates against LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people".

He said: "This bill is about love. Marriage is about love. If you speak to most married couples and ask them what their marriage is about, it's about love, it's about commitment to each other. If they have children, it's about their family.

"All of those things apply to same-sex couples as well."

Mr Hopkins added that marriage was perceived as the "gold standard for relationships" which could leave gay people facing "practical discrimination".

Following evidence from the pro same-sex marriage lobby, the committee heard from Mr Turner, Mr Deighan and Dr Salah Beltagui, chair of the parliamentary committee of the Muslim Council of Scotland.

Mr Turner urged the committee to address the worries of his organisation.

He believed there were "wide implications" of the proposed legislation.

Mr Turner said: "We have a huge amount of churches and organisations that provide a huge amount of social welfare in Scotland - running food banks and doing debt advice, homeless projects and groups like the Salvation Army.

"It is partnered with local authorities and statutory agencies as they deliver these services - we think that is a good thing, we want that to continue.

"But we are concerned that their views on marriage could become a hindrance to them in that partnership."

Mr Deighan believed the state had a role in legislating on the civil effects of marriage, but not on its essence.

He added: "We can't have laws saying people can sell bracelets and call them watches if they don't tell the time.

"There is an essence of something that makes it marriage and that is that there is a man and woman at the heart of it, and that is the relationship which gives rise to children."

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